The departure of Cristiano Ronaldo marked the end of an era at Real Madrid. We won Champions League titles like no other time, since the days of Di Stefano and the first 5 European Cups. On the other side of the coin, Real Madrid has left almost total league and cup domination to Barcelona. But it’s better to be the best of all of Europe (and by default, the world) than the champion of Spain, right? The Champions League titles have hidden the deficiencies of this team in recent years and the total dependency on Cristiano’s goals. When Cristiano was younger he was a machine, but Messi outshined him and Barcelona took all the silverware. As Cristiano got older he turned into a pure striker and Real’s fortunes changed in Europe as Cristiano lit up the competition with goals and Messi failed to maintain his level. When Cristiano left, everyone appeared out of place. It makes total sense. He was bigger than life and his presence was dominating. This team no longer knew how to score goals without Cristiano and many players were suffering from World Cup hangover. Some months have passed, players are finding their place and things are changing for the better. Lopetegui was unlucky. He arrived at a time of major transition and to be honest the team was not in good form the past year, even with Cristiano. If Lopetegui made one mistake it was not giving Vinicius a chance, something Solari rectified to his benefit. The beginning of the Solari era looked quite the same as Lopetegui’s time, with the small exception that he gave Vinicius a chance. No one would bet at any American online casino that 'Vini' would respond as he has. Vinicius has been an inspiration to this team. He has not shown to be a great finisher yet, but he’s activating the team. He plays with the ‘alegria’ (joy) that the other players have been lacking. He runs at defenses, moves the ball around a lot and creates lots of scoring chances. He also loses the ball sometimes but that’s part of the game when you try to make plays. Vinicius has been the spark to which the rest of the team is catching fire. That’s called desire, boys, something the veteran players have been lacking. Solari has also given other youth players a chance and its paying dividends. He threw Marcos Llorente into the lineup to replace Casemiro while injured and the youngster has performed brilliantly. The underperforming Marcelo was benched to give Sergio Reguilón a chance and the left back is showing his quality. Another shining youngster is Álvaro Odriozola at right back (or winger) who is also a permanent fixture for the national team. Together with the play of Ceballos and the improving form of veterans like Kroos, Modric and a rejuvenated Benzema (Let’s hope it lasts!), the youngsters are leading Real Madrid into a new era. The sports betting sites will be overloaded with picks for the whites in upcoming years. The improved play of this past month is something exciting to behold and we haven’t seen it for a while. Hopefully we can salvage a title this year, maybe the Copa del Rey, but if not, good things are on the horizon with these new youngsters forcing the issue.